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JR Automation, a Hitachi Group Company, leveraged EAC Productivity Apps to solve Windchill PLM frustrations, scale their business operations and improve the shop floor experiences of their engineers. Discover how JR Automation implemented PLM Apps to gain ROI, bring efficiency and clarity for builders on the manufacturing floor, and achieved scalable digital transformation.


Business Initiatives

JR Automation knew the company needed to update operational processes in order to meet and exceed customer expectations. Their goal was to reduce the time it was taking builders and engineers to manage print packages by 80%. 

Additionally, they wanted to increase efficiency by 5% or more during the assembly phase. Including enhanced communication on the shop floor. As well as saving time on machine assembly and tactical coordination. As such, was estimated to be taking up 30% of a builder’s day.


Business Challenges

With an increase of workers on the shop floor, builders had no choice but to walk back and forth to shared kiosks in order to visualize and assemble designs. These complications only intensified as products became more complex. With manual error-prone operations, redline quality, and accuracy were at stake.

Similar to many other manufacturing organizations, challenges arose when it came to searching for the correct prints, managing paper booklets, and updating print designs. 

Rework stemming from incorrect designs, and file management complications were growing. Also, misplaced product information (needed for closed-loop change processes) had never been greater. JR Automation was seeking a simple way for low-tech machine builders to get last-minute design changes to engineering. Ross Walters, Director of Engineering, knew that builders required a solution that was highly intuitive.


The Solution: EAC Apps

JR Automation looked at PTC ThingWorx Navigate. ThingWorx Navigate does offer a single view to multiple enterprise systems like ALM, MRP, ERP, SLM, CRM, Accounting, and PLM (Windchill). It also gives users universal access to the latest most accurate product information when they need it. 

However, it was clear to JR Automation that what they really needed was a customized app that made things easier. EAC’s experts knew the solution and streamlined processes that allow builders to get drawings, CAD files, and other related documents in a single portal. With EAC Apps they could also see role-based reports and make redlines. 

By providing all the information needed on a single screen, with user-friendly workflows and easy-to-submit redlines, EAC apps improved operational efficiency as well as customer satisfaction.


A Custom Solution with Major Impact

After evaluating cost, functionality, implementation time, training, and other considerations, JR Automation unveiled they would gain an ROI of $1.4 million from EAC Productivity Apps.

EAC Apps benefited JR Automation with:

  • 80% efficiency increase in print management for mechanical engineers
  • 60% efficiency increase in builder print management
  • 60% increase in digital efficiency gains

In conclusion, JR Automation’s builders no longer need to share a kiosk. Working with EAC enabled efficiencies for more than 200 workers who use Redline Apps today. They have eliminated the need for paper, print supplies, and additional booklets saving them additional costs. EAC Apps have continued to provide benefits such as improved accuracy with customer shipment orders, product designs, onboarding, and training efficiencies.

Learn more about EAC Productivity Apps here.


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In last week’s post I walked through a manufacturing use case without Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). I hope you noticed the possible issues and costs related to restricting Manufacturing direct access to PLM and engineering data.

If you missed last weeks post, you can read it here:

Product Lifecycle Management in Manufacturing: Part 1

This week I will use the same use case story. The only difference will be manufacturing has access to PLM. I have also included manufacturing specific modules, which are run through PLM as well. Manufacturing has access to these modules and uses them for all Manufacturing planning.

As before, Engineering completes a new product design and starts a release process of the product in PLM. One major difference now, is Manufacturing personnel are included at appropriate points in the new release process. There is a full integration between PLM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as well. This integration allows for automatic transfer of the Manufacturing Bill of Materials (BoM) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) when appropriate based on processes managed in PLM.

One thing to note on the outline below; each system task, since it is in PLM, has links to all the required information engineering released as well as any supporting information. This is including manufacturing information, customer specification, and supplier specifications on purchased parts.

Part 1: Release Process

The lead Manufacturing Engineer receives a PLM task asking him to begin manufacturing planning for this associated new products design.

Part 2: Manufacturing Planning

The manufacturing engineer begins the layout of manufacturing processes in the PLM Manufacturing Planning System. This includes planning at each work cell. Each cell is linked to required resources, parts, CAD data, and manufacturing documents required to complete that cell action. With the correct system, this will have included all metrics required to properly and completely plan a manufacturing process.

If required, a Manufacturing BoM is based off of, and linked to, the Design BoM. This allows the Manufacturing Engineer to restructure the BoM as needed to allow for the most efficient manufacturing processes without losing ties to the design BoM and parts the manufacturing BoM was created from.

Once complete, work instructions can be created in web form or be printed to paper from this plan. The work instructions would include links to the correct Engineering data and required manufacturing documentation.

Part 3: Release Process Continues

Once the Manufacturing Engineer completes their planning tasks, all required parts and Manufacturing BoMs, are automatically added and/or updated into the ERP system via an integration to PLM.

During this same process, PLM system tasks are sent to purchasing to start the procurement process.

Tasks are also sent to the tooling designers to start tooling generation.

As mentioned, these tasks are automatically linked to all the required engineering and manufacturing information to appropriately complete each task.

Part 4: Tooling and Controls Tasks

Tooling designers access PLM to generate their tooling data and controlling programs directly from engineering 3D data.

The resulting CAD and other tooling data are also saved to the PLM system. This data is linked to Engineering data, Manufacturing data, and the Manufacturing process plan.

Machining paths and other controlling programs generated are also created and saved to PLM with the same functionality mentioned above.

Having these links from manufacturing to engineering data allows for full impact analyses of any potential changes being planned for the product by the company. As well as insures all downstream data is updated appropriately when an engineering change does occur.

Part 5: In-Process Change by Engineering

While ramp up is happening, Engineering makes a last-minute change. Once the change is complete in Engineering, they start a change process that includes all downstream departments. Each department receives a PLM system task with the all required information related to the change linked to the task. This includes purchasing, manufacturing, tooling, etc. Each department acts upon the change, completing all internal department actions required.

Once all of the departments have completed their tasks in PLM, the change has been completed. Manufacturing ramp up continues leading into the initial manufacturing process.

Part 6: Issue Tracking and Correction During Manufacturing

During the initial manufacturing process, a manufacturing team member notices there is a clearance issue with the design. The team member verbally notifies their cell leader of this issue. The cell leader creates a change request in the PLM System. During that process, he creates a digital markup that is saved with the change request. The change request is created referencing the engineering data the issue is related to.

The engineer responsible receives a PLM system task notifying of this problem. The engineer takes the needed corrective actions and updates the CAD data. This CAD data is then revised released and included in the problem report.

The cell leader receives the notification the problem report was approved and corrected. The updated CAD data is included, the cell leader and the manufacturing floor team member can now reference the new data directly from PLM and make the needed correction.

This happens many times during the initial manufacturing process. The necessary PLM processes are initiated based on the issues found during the initial manufacturing run.

Manufacturing uses PLM to gain access to engineering data because it always references the latest released information. This insures nothing is made from outdated information.

Part 7: Final Product Release

The final product is released to the customer.

All as-built information has been saved in PLM, meaning most of the related engineering data has been changed via the PLM process capturing changes. Anything that hasn’t been corrected yet is also saved via electronic markups to be processed later.

Part 8: Another Manufacturing Run

One year later, the company needs to do a manufacturing run on this same product. However, they have a large turnover with their manufacturing employees. Only a few people are there that worked on the first production run of this product. Without the use of PLM, this could be a disaster. However, all as-built changes where captured in PLM for the first production run of this product and manufacturing is still using PLM to access all build information. This allows manufacturing the ability to properly prepare for the next run. This resulted in very few, if any, issues during the next production run.

Hopefully it is easy to see the benefits of giving manufacturing direct access to PLM, even based on this limited use case example.

There are many benefits to utilizing PLM in manufacturing. Much more than is appropriate to list in a blog. If you’d like to take a deeper dive, please contact one of our experts here at EAC. We would love to talk you through all the benefits PLM utilized in manufacturing could offer you.

In the meantime, reading our eBook, “Designing an Effective Change Control Process” may be helpful. We walk you through how to design a change control process to improve productivity and reduce quality issues.

Designing an Effective Change Control Process: Download eBook

Many still think that a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system is only for the Engineering department. At one point that may have been true. However, I am starting to see a shift in that mind set. More companies every day are starting to see the benefit, and even the necessity, in giving manufacturing direct access to the appropriate engineering data through a robust PLM system.

In this two part series I am going to outline a fictional use case both with and without PLM. My intent is for this to highlight the benefit of PLM in manufacturing. Please realize the use cases are not all inclusive. There are many possible actions that need to be taken to start manufacturing of a new product. I am simplifying for purpose of maintaining a storyline that is easier to follow along.

In the first use case, engineering is working in a PLM system and Manufacturing is not. Engineering uses PLM for data management, process management, and controls their release process utilizing this system. However, only engineering has access to this PLM system.

When a new product is released to manufacturing, only the drawings associated to this product are printed on paper and put in a folder and then physically handed to manufacturing. Once manufacturing has this folder, they begin the required tasks to begin production of this product. I will outline below what a possible workflow might look like in manufacturing without a PLM system.

Part 1: Initial Manufacturing Product Release Tasks

The required parts are manually entered into the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. In many cases, the parts are entered into a manufacturing Excel file instead. Requests made to purchasing to procure parts and raw materials required, utilizing copies of the 2D prints to send to the suppliers. After that, a Bill of Materials (BoM) structure for the parts is manually created to support the required manufacturing processes.

Part 2: Process Planning

Manufacturing will then begin the layout of processes required to manufacture the product. In many cases, the layouts are also created in Excel.

Part 3: Tooling and Controls Design

The tooling designers recreate the required 3D models from the 2D prints. The designs are typically saved in an uncontrolled manner such as on a local drive on a user desktop. The machining paths and other controlling programs are generated from these uncontrolled tooling files as well.

Part 4: In Process Engineering Change

While the ramp up is happening, engineering has the ability to make last-minute changes. If a change is made, a new 2D print must be created and supplied to manufacturing. Manufacturing must attempt to replace all copies of the printed design with a new copy. When this happens, there is great risk associated with having two of these copies floating around. Designers are manually notified to make the required changes, as are the supplies to make the required changes to the new prints. Manufacturing planning must adjust processes based on these changes as well.

Part 5: Finish Ramp Up

Manufacturing ramp up continues leading into the initial manufacturing process.

Part 6: Begin Initial Manufacturing Run

During the initial manufacturing process, a manufacturing team member notices there is a clearance issue with the design. The manufacturing team member verbally notifies their cell leader of this issue. The cell leader will then make a phone call to the engineer whose name is on the print and explains the problem. The engineer tells him to grind down the part to allow the needed clearance. The cell lead marks by hand on the print how much the part must be grinded down. If the engineer remembers, he will also update the 3D design to match this. It’s unlikely they would request a formal change to be release. One thing to note here is that there is no history of this interaction anywhere but on the market up print on the manufacturing floor.

This happens many times during the initial manufacturing process. Typically, only major issues are formally documented which will drive a full change process in Engineering.

Part 7: Out-of-date Information on Manufacturing Floor

One sub-assembly was made using out-of-date information due to outdated prints being used. Rebuild of this sub-assembly was required.

Part 8: Product Release

The final product is released to the customer.

Most of the as-built documentation is saved on paper in a folder in the manufacturing offices.

One year later, they need to do a manufacturing run on this same product. However, they have a large turnover with their manufacturing employees. Only a few people are there that worked on the first production run of this product. They were not aware of the as-built mark-ups manufacturing had in their folders. So, many of the same issues were found and had to be corrected in this manufacturing run again.

I listed a few possible issues that could come from uncontrolled information used in manufacturing. I am sure you can imagine, or even experienced other possible issues.

Keep your eyes peeled for next weeks post where I review the same manufacturing process, but this time with manufacturing having direct access to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). If you would like to learn more about the benefits of PLM in manufacturing you can download our eBook, “Designing an Effective Change Control Process” here. This eBook discusses how following a change control process would likely improve productivity and reduce quality issues. The benefits of having a controlled process in place substantially outweigh the initial time and resources to get started.

Download eBook

Does the phrase “Formal Change Control” lead to scary thoughts like “We don’t have the time to set that up,” or “We don’t know how to do it or where to start?” If this sounds like you, likely your organization is spending more time dealing with the downstream and long term repeated issues than if they took the time to outline a change control process.

While every company will vary, there are three basic phases of creating a formal change control process. Find out how to implement a formal change control process in these three phases.

  1. Issue or Problem Reporting
  2. Change Request or Approval Process
  3. Change Notice or Execution

Phase 1: Reporting & Logging Issues

  • Provide an efficient way for anyone in the organization to report and log issues.
  • Store issues in an Issue Queue that will resolved it in one of three ways:
    • Take no action
    • Put the issue on hold
    • Request a formal change

Phase 2: Formal Change Request

  • The Formal Change Request is the second stage of review that can be handled in one of three ways:
    • Rejection
    • Request more information
    • Approved for further action, either fast track or Full Formal Change
  • If the change is approved for further action, it typically is reviewed by a board that will do one of the following:
    • Reject the change request
    • Proceed to the change notice

Phase 3: The Change Notice

  • At this point the change request can no longer be rejected, it must be addressed and acted upon.
  • This phase can be defined as Static or Dynamic:
    • If it is a Static process, the same departments and teams will be notified and responsible for executing the change
    • If it is a Dynamic, a new process is developed specifically for each change
  • When the plan is fully defined, typically a change implementation board review occurs.

Formal Change Control processes are simple, the added control of these processes alone could save your organization money in the long run. The possibility of increased productivity and reduced quality issues will far outweigh the initial time and resources required to get a change control process implemented.

We like to keep it simple, not scary here at EAC. For a full overview of how to design an effective change control process, download our eBook, Designing an Effective Change Control Process.

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